BY Fast Company Contributor 4 MINUTE READ

With the ongoing global pandemic creating a more challenging, competitive job market, the onus rests on candidates to proactively find ways to stand out to hiring managers in what is an employers’ marketplace.

With the ongoing global pandemic creating a more challenging, competitive job market, the onus rests on candidates to proactively find ways to stand out to hiring managers in what is an employers’ marketplace.

During ordinary times, getting the attention of a manager is hard enough, but now, differentiating yourself from the competition is even more difficult with a lack of in-person interactions.

Here are five unique ways you can reach out to others that go beyond simply sending a cover letter and résumé without coming across as gimmicky or unprofessional.


Meeting face to face often enables you to create a stronger connection with someone. But when that’s not an option, consider sending a personalized prerecorded video message instead. Video platforms such as Loom, Vidyard, or Bonjoro allow you to easily create a simple video introduction that allows others to quickly put a face to your name.

For example, you could create a short video explaining why you’re interested in a specific company and why you would you be a great fit, says Biron Clark, founder of Career Sidekick. “A candidate used this tactic to approach me last year. While they didn’t end up having the right technical skill set, the video caught my attention immediately and prompted me to set up a phone interview less than 48 hours later.”


In lieu of in-person recruitment events, companies are having to get more creative with customer, community, and candidate engagement. This includes hosting online events, company-sponsored webinars, panel discussions, social media, and community forums.

Connecting with recruiters through online community forums or company-sponsored webinars can be a great way for candidates to authentically introduce themselves and open the door to career opportunities, according to Niall O’Rourke, VP of talent acquisition at Intuit. “Whether forging one-on-one connections or participating in community discussions, candidates can showcase their value in a more casual setting, participate in surveys and join events that speak to their interests and professional background, providing context beyond what can be expressed in a résumé.”

O’Rourke goes on to say Intuit keeps in touch with participants who join their company-sponsored webinars, inviting them to join Intuit’s online talent communities. Today, approximately 30% of software engineer hires at Intuit are existing members of their talent communities.


In your initial outreach to a company, instead of simply asking whether a recruiter or hiring manager is aware of a job opening, take the initiative to make a useful contribution to your target organization. “When you help someone solve a problem, they’ll remember you positively for your effort and be more willing to help you out in the future,” says Jon Hill, CEO and chairman of the Energists, an executive search firm.

Providing value could include offering to introduce someone to a relevant contact, referring a new customer, mentioning a useful event, relaying an opportunity, or even just sharing a useful article.

Contributing value conveys you’re proactive, which is a trait hiring managers appreciate, says Ro Kalonaros who sits on the global content and culture team at Omnicom. “I got a simple email from a job seeker who heard me speak at a virtual event recently and had come across an interesting article built on a topic I’d spoken about. That article was exactly what I needed for a presentation I was building. No gimmicks, just genuine [consideration] and real connection.”


Creating your own content online can demonstrate a track record of interest and passion about topics that could be relevant to an eventual target company and hirer. Maintaining a blog, self-publishing on LinkedIn, or creating valuable content on other social media platforms can be a way of reinforcing your personal brand with a prospective employer.

Michael Lowe, CEO of review website Car Passionate, explains that while résumés and cover letters can demonstrate a candidate’s professional background and understanding of their company, ascertaining what an individual knows about cars is difficult from these materials alone.

“We’ve received YouTube channel videos from online creators who work daily on their cars and have vast amounts of knowledge. We also receive résumés from bloggers who run their own car blogs which shows they already understand the work we are doing here.”

Lowe states sharing relevant content helps candidates stand out while also enabling Car Passionate to single out the best candidates during the recruitment process.


Although sending objects (such as flowers) to a hiring manager to get their attention could seem forced, awkward, or even inappropriate, mailing a thoughtful object that’s relevant to your target company or the role can really grab someone’s attention.

Jeff Neal, an operations manager, received over 100 résumés for a marketing position opening at their company. One candidate did some online research, discovered Neal liked fly fishing, and used this as a way to demonstrate his market research skills. “This candidate actually mailed his résumé with a packet of fly-fishing lures. I was very impressed and invited him in for an interview.”

Creativity can also go a long way in reinforcing your key skills in a way that’s hard to do with a résumé alone. Peter Gray, president of a real estate group, spent a previous decade in human resources. He says nearly any job application tactic, including employee referrals or even direct applications, fared better than online applications.

He shared an example of a candidate applying for a brand-building marketing role. “The applicant made a brand of water using his name. The ingredients were all of his positive attributes: hard work, creative, good team player, etc. I looked at his application for hours, compared to two seconds before deleting an online application.”

All these tactics take more effort than just firing off a quick email or résumé—and that’s sort of the point of customizing and focusing your approach. Your approach to the job hunt says a lot about your personal brand as a candidate. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, it demonstrates initiative and thoughtfulness.

Whether you choose to try out one of these tactics or simply stick with more traditional outreach, customizing your message based on your research on the company and role is critical to standing out. Remember that real effort is clear and still quite successful. So, don’t be afraid to approach someone in a unique way that may surprise and delight them; it might just be the thing that helps you get your foot in the door.